Jack Pardee, former head coach and linebacker for the Redskins, dies


Coach Jack Pardee chats with Redskins’ owner Jack Kent Cooke, left, and President Edward Bennett Williams, right, in Washington on Aug. 24, 1979. (Richard Darcey /THE WASHINGTON POST)
April 2, 2013

Jack Pardee, 76, a former head coach and linebacker for the Washington Redskins who also coached two other NFL teams and was a member of the storied “Junction Boys” of Texas A&M in the 1950s, died April 1 at a hospice in Denver.

His death was confirmed by the University of Houston, where he was head football coach from 1987 to 1989. In November, Mr. Pardee’s family announced he had gall bladder cancer that had spread to other organs.

From 1978 through 1980, Mr. Pardee was head coach of the Redskins, having succeeded George Allen, who led the Washington team to its first Super Bowl in 1973, which the Redskins lost to the Miami Dolphins, 14-7. That Super Bowl was Mr. Pardee’s last game as an NFL player. When he was the Redskins’ head coach, his teams won 24 games and lost 24. He was named NFL coach of the year in 1979, when the Redskins went 10-6.

In a football career that spanned more than four decades, Mr. Pardee played at Texas A&M for the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and was the first professional coach for such gridiron standouts as Walter Payton, Jim Kelly and the Redskins’ Art Monk.

Mr. Pardee began his coaching career as a Redskins assistant, then became head coach of the Chicago Bears, where he coached Payton. Returning to Washington as head coach in 1978, he inherited an aging team that finished with an 8-8 record.

The next year, the Redskins won 10 games and lost six, narrowly missing the playoffs with a season-finale loss to the Dallas Cowboys. After a 6-10 season in 1980, Mr. Pardee was fired by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, ending a front-office power struggle with general manager Bobby Beathard over the direction of the team.

Beathard wanted to rebuild the team with younger players; Mr. Pardee wanted to stick with experienced veterans.

“After careful consideration I have decided to endorse Mr. Beathard’s program of a winning future for the Redskins,” said Cooke.

Mr. Pardee later served as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and as head coach of the Houston Gamblers of the short-lived United States Football League — where he coached Kelly — the University of Houston and, from 1990 to 1994, the Houston Oilers. His last football coaching job was in 1995 with the Birmingham Barracudas, an expansion team of the Canadian Football League. His career coaching record in the NFL was 87-77.

John Perry “Jack” Pardee was born April 19, 1936, in Exira, Iowa. He was the seventh and last child in a farming family where hard work was the only alternative to hunger and poverty. He was milking cows at the age of 5 and digging holes in the ground for septic tanks when he was 10. As a child, he acquired a work ethic that would last his lifetime. Rarely, if ever, did he take vacations.

When Mr. Pardee was young, his father was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, and the family eventually moved to Christoval, Tex., a town of about 500 people near San Angelo. His high school was so small — his graduating class had eight members — that it played six-man football. But he was good enough to attract the attention of athletic recruiters, and he won a scholarship to Texas A&M.

Bear Bryant, who later would become a national sports figure as football coach at the University of Alabama, had just taken over as A&M’s coach. During a historic drought and heat wave, Bryant held his team’s preseason training camp in Junction, Tex., a desolate ranching town about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio.

He drove his players through what were described as brutal summer workouts in 110-degree heat, refusing to allow water breaks, in an effort to toughen them for the fall season. More than 70 players reported to the camp at Junction; only 26 returned to play football at A&M. Mr. Pardee stuck it out.

The “Junction Boys,” later commemorated in a book by Jim Dent and in a 2002 TV movie, won only one game in 1954. But by 1956, the hardened Aggies had an undefeated 9-0-1 season. Mr. Pardee was named an All-American fullback and linebacker and was later elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Mr. Pardee played 15 years in the NFL and was an All-Pro outside linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams. He missed the 1965 season because of a bout with melanoma.

He came to Washington in 1971 as one of the so-called “Ramskins,” when Allen became the Redskins’ coach and brought several players from Los Angeles with him. Both in Los Angeles and Washington, Mr. Pardee was the on-field defensive signal caller.

Since leaving football, Mr. Pardee tended a herd of 200 Angus cattle at his ranch near Bryan-College Station, Tex., where he lived with his wife of more than 50 years, Phyllis Perryman Pardee. They had five children and 12 grandchildren.

“Outside of football, the greatest pleasure I get is working on our farm,” he once told Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser. “I can’t stand sitting around doing nothing for more than two days. It’s no vacation. It’s punishment.”